Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
MONDAY 15 JANUARY 2001
WALMSLEY, KCB AND
40. Fair enough. So the Sea Dart contains obsolete
components and that would be harder to maintain as the missiles
become older. Are you going to be able to ensure a supply of components
and what steps are you taking so to do?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) We take enormous efforts to
defeat obsolescence on this missile. They are old-fashioned components.
It looks like ironmongery inside because it is ironmongery and
the good news about that is that although it is expensive to make
a small production run of these components, there is no technological
barrier to replacing the Sea Dart components. It is 1960s technology.
41. We are told that running on the Type 42
destroyers would cost an additional £565 million. What action
are you taking under Smart Acquisition to minimise this enormous
and may I suggest wasted cost due to incompetence of running on
the Type 42?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) There is very little that can
be done now to constrain the cost of the Type 42 destroyer. The
first one, HMS Sheffield, started construction in the 1960s and
the costs of the ship are very much dependent on the design of
the ship and the equipment on it and the size of the crew. More
than one quarter of the cost of running on a Type 42 destroyer
by comparison with the new Type 45 derives from the crew size;
about another 70 people per ship. The second significant element,
which is in fact slightly more significant even than the crew,
is the consumption of spare parts. It is not surprising that towards
the end of a ship's life it does start to consume spare parts
as things wear out. I should also say that PAAMS, the new Principal
Weapons System on the ship, will be much cheaper to maintain than
Sea Dart. Finally, we are putting new engines into the Type 45
which will consume less fuel and as a result of consuming less
fuel and as a result of needing fewer stores, there will be a
lesser attribution of Royal Fleet Auxiliary supply ships in order
to support the ship. You can see that not much can be done to
restrain that on a Type 42. These are all steps forward when comparing
a Type 42 with the new Type 45.
42. But the money is lost.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) The money has not yet been spent
because the Type 45 destroyer, even if at its earliest, is not
due to come into service until 2002. The money will be incurred
as a result of the replacements for the Type 42s coming in on
average about five years later over 11 ships at a cost of £10
million per year per ship and that is as near as makes no difference
£550 million. That has been accompanied by a deferral of
the development and production expenditure on the Type 45 programme
because the reason it is late is that we did not start.
43. Continuing on the Type 45 destroyer, when
we get the report and read the report and we prepare from the
report, we are not aware that it is not accurate and not up to
date. It is a bit difficult to put reasonable questions if the
report is not right. Vice Admiral Blackham is saying that the
information given to us on the first three ships is not accurate.
Quite frankly I am very pleased that it is not accurate because
when I read the report it seemed to me that we were going to get
three ships which could not be used if there were submarines in
the area, five years late and if any submarine happened to be
in the waters near them they could not be used. In other words,
these ships could not go to sea. I wrote down that it seemed to
me we might as well have commissioned a Dover to Calais ferry
for all the use they were going to be. We are now told that in
fact there will be sonar and they will be able to go to sea. Is
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It is. I tried to say "guilty
as charged". I said I supported the report at the time it
was written. I said things move on. The horrific reality of this
report helped all of us to change our view.
44. I appreciate that things do move on but
they have moved on to the extent that at one stage these three
ships were not going to go to sea because if they had gone to
sea where there was a submarine then they could not have been
in action and presumably a submarine can go anywhere where there
is water provided it is deep enough and therefore these ships
were going to be pretty useless. This is what this report clearly
said. Things do move on, but they do not move on from a stupid
situation to a sublime situation, do they?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Perhaps I may just explain that
one of the major considerations in developing this programme has
been to make it affordable. The sonar cost will be somewhere about
one and a half per cent of the ship price. All along, in terms
of making the ship affordable, Admiral Blackham and his staff
are always having to look at how to make economies. He comes to
my people and asks whether they can do a bit better, whether they
can make a bit more room. His top priority is sonar and we have
made a bit more room and that is one and a half per cent of the
ship's cost and it has now been squeezed in.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It is perhaps worth
saying that it was never anybody's wish that the ships go to sea
without a sonar. The question was whether it could be ready and
could what Sir Robert has just described be done in time for the
building of the first ship which we did not wish to delay because
of the urgency of getting PAAMS to sea.
45. I just find it incredible. In paragraph
3.15 of the 2000 report, it says, "In addition to these priority
needs, the Navy sees some other equipment as desirable and provision
has been made in the ships' design for fitting this equipment
to the Type 45 Destroyers in future, if the need arises".
Then it gives you three things which might be desirable. Guns
for one. When I used to teach special need children they always
drew a gun on a ship and they always drew a soldier carrying a
gun. It infers we may put a gun onto the ship, we may put on a
dedicated anti-submarine warfare. I thought you would not dare
to go to sea without these things now. It just seems incredible.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) The report was
written at a time when the programme was evolving. I explained
earlier on that we have designed this ship in about 12 months
from the collapse of the CNGF project to bringing it to the state
at which we could announce that we were going to place an order.
46. They used to draw a ship like this and the
one thing they put on was a gunlike thata ship without
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) It will not be
47. Can we move onto the AAW system? When was
it first perceived that the present anti-armour weapon would need
to be changed? When was it first realised that it would have to
be modernised? It came into being in 1972. When was it decided
that it would need to be updated?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Are we talking about Sea Dart?
48. No, I am talking about the air-launched
anti-armour weapon, the AAW.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Brimstone. I do not know when
it was first conceived. It is almost impossible to find out. As
the 1999 report said, it was already as near as makes no difference
ten years late at that stage.
49. That is the point I am making. It is ten
years late and presumably it was a long time before that that
it was decided it would have to be renewed anyway. The point I
am trying to make is that although it is ten years late, it is
probably in fact 20 years late or 15 years late.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It was ten years late on its
first estimate of the in-service date, so I would stick to the
ten years. What I can say is that the progress was not steady
between initial conception and placing this weapon on contract.
It was subject to a great many reviews: should we have it, should
we not have it, how it was affected by the end of the Cold War,
etcetera. It was a very stumbling path and that is why I am so
pleased that in this new report for this year 2000 we are now
measuring slippage in in-service date against the date agreed
at the major investment decision point. Quite frankly, to characterise
Brimstone, which was put on contract in 1996 as a result of an
international competition, as already ten years late does not
seem to me to do very much to talk about encouraging the project
teams, encouraging industry or indeed telling the armed forces
what the realities of life are.
50. When it comes into service over ten years
late, you told the Chairman it would be more effective. There
is a surprise. I would have assumed that if something comes ten
years later than expected it is going to be ten years more advanced
when it actually comes than if it had been produced in 1991. Basically
if it had been produced in 1991, it would have been out of date
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It would have had a midlife
update programme like so many of the missiles, like Maverick where
we talked about it evolving.
51. When I was reading the report it seemed
to me that the best thing to do for procurement of defence is
not to buy anything anyway. If you buy it, it is out of date,
so you might as well wait until something else comes which will
be more up to date.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) It may be a benefit of me failing
to deliver things on time, but it is no basis for a strategy because
the result of that strategy is that we do not have the right equipment
in the front line.
52. Exactly, and I am being facetious, as you
are well aware. It seems to me that you made an excuse that it
is going to be more up to date when we actually get it. Of course
it is. It is obvious it is going to be more up to date. If you
bought a computer ten years ago, that computer now is totally
useless and presumably that is the same with arms and weapons.
You cannot have a strategy which says let us wait because it might
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I can assure you that there
are plenty of siren voices who do suggest that from time to time,
but eventually you have to draw a line in the sand and get on
and procure something. I would draw the distinctionand
I am drawing the distinctionbetween a programme like Brimstone,
when no major procurement action was taken until 1996 and something
where you buy all the bits back in 1986 and it just takes longer
and longer and longer and the bits you then deliver are actually
out of date.
53. Would it not be quite serious? If you read
the report, the BL755 is now pretty useless, is it not?
(Sir Robert Walmsley) Nothing I have said is intended
to dismiss the seriousness of delivering equipment late. I really
must make that absolutely clear. I was saying that one of the
byproducts of delivering it late is that it may be more modern
than you first expected.
54. Yes and the point I am trying to make is
that that is no excuse because it is pointless having reckoned
that you are no good. For example, it says in the 1999 report
in paragraph 3.7, that in the Gulf War only half of one per cent
of this weapon which went to the Gulf was actually used; only
half of one per cent. That must make it to be an absolutely useless
weapon, so there is no point having it.
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I think you know the reason
for that, which was that at that stage BL755 had to be dropped
from a height of around 500 feet. The tactics in the Gulf War
55. Is there not then a huge waste of money
when a useless weapon is updated, a load of money spent on it
and we are told then that only five out of every 100 actually
worked when it was updated? Is that not just throwing good money
(Sir Robert Walmsley) I very much think not. I shall
ask Admiral Blackham, if I may, to comment on the effectiveness
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) I do not think
BL755 is a useless weapon: it is not as effective against the
modern most up to date armour as it is against other targets.
It is extremely effective against soft skinned targets, against
patrol cars, against missile launching vehicles and vehicles of
that sort, of which there is a very large number which we might
find ranged against us. It still has a utility in the totality
of our armour. It is therefore worth updating and the update we
have given it allows it to be operated at a much greater height
and still to focus the cluster bombs it drops over the same small
area we could before.
56. It is upgraded, at a cost which you will
be able to tell us, to hit targets which the original useless
weapon could have hit anyway. You did not need to update it to
hit the actual targets you go for, the soft skinned targets. The
BL755 in its original form could get rid of the soft targets,
could it not? It did not need updating.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) Except that you
had to fly at 500 feet to use it and experience in Kosovo showed
us that that was not a practical proposition in all circumstances
and that we would need to be able to operate from a medium level.
The purpose of the updating is to allow the weapon to be used
from an aircraft flying at a medium level.
57. Does it not say in the report also that
even out of the five per cent of the successful hits a huge percentage
is useless and you could not use them anyway because they did
not actually go off and they become land mines.
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) A small number
do not go off. There are some 2,000 bombs
in one of these weapons and you cannot guarantee that they will
all go off.
58. So the success rate is even less than five
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) No, what you are
concluding is that five per cent, which is a very small number,
of these bombs may malfunction. The weapon is useful. The problem
is that in Kosovo we were operating from a medium level for which
the weapon was not designed or optimised.
59. But it did not even arrive in time, did
(Vice Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackham) The upgrade did
not because the upgrade was commissioned as a result of that campaign.
1 Note by Witness: There are some 147 bomblets
as explained in the Supplementary Memorandum to Q59 & 60 (See
Appendix 1, page 000 (PAC 00-01/170). Back
Note: See Evidence, Appendix 1, page 36 (PAC 00-01/170). Back